As the 2018 legislative session has wrapped up, I’d like to offer my thoughts on some of the bills that passed or were offered and failed.
As you all know, the legislative session was dominated by the teacher and school service employee protests for better wages and insurance benefits. I was proud to stand with them from the beginning, supporting various amendments to ensure they received their much deserved wage increases and find a real solution to fund PEIA. Wages within our education system were 48th in the nation and quickly sinking, and we have over 600 vacancies in our school system due to low wages. Our children and our state simply could not afford to have schools with no teachers or staff.
Teachers and school service personnel were not the only people I was happy to help in getting a much-needed pay raise. Our correctional officers and staff have been dealing with understaffing for years, and it finally reached a crisis point earlier this year with Governor Justice declaring it a “state of emergency”. Understaffed prisons with overworked employees cause safety issues not only for these workers, but for the public at large. I am happy to have voted for base salary raises for these workers to keep them from taking jobs in other states.
For all the good that happened, there were many proposed bills that I could not, and will not support. The first of these bills being the passage of the “Co-Tenancy Modernization Act.” This law which passed both houses would allow a group of mineral rights owners to force the minority group of owners to give up their minerals at a price negotiated by the majority – essentially taking their property without their consent. I will not support any legislation that would make it easy for anyone to take private property without the owner’s consent. It is simply un-American.
The Senate passed, by party line vote, a bill that would among other things, eliminate provisions which require state contractors to release where their workers reside, creating the potential for contractors to hire cheap, out-of-state, if not foreign labor to take jobs from West Virginians. As we gear up for new roads projects as a result of the recently-passed bond amendment, I will do everything in my power to ensure that West Virginia jobs go to West Virginia workers.
Thankfully, myself and colleagues in the House, were able to stop a disastrous bill, Senate Bill 474, that would threaten the transparency of tax dollar spending on road and public works. Transparency is especially important since we’re in the early stages of $3.3 Billion in road bond spending. I did not support hiding public spending from the taxpayers, and was happy to see the bill die in the House. I opposed Senate bills 335, designed to destroy labor unions by making the employee authorized collection of union dues illegal, Senate bill 558, lowering the standards to become a certified crane operator, and Senate bill 7, which would have forced employees to jump through numerous hoops to get paid upon leaving a job.
Aside from the normal day to day legislative actions, I was somewhat discouraged by what I felt was a total disregard of the longstanding rules of conduct for our legislative process during the session. The whole country witnessed the Senate’s inability to abide by their own rules while they attempted to reduce pay raises for our teachers, state troopers, and school service personnel. After unknowingly passing the wrong bill that kept pay raises from the House version of the bill intact, they disobeyed their
own rules by recalling the bill back from the House, amending different language into the bill outside the normal order of business, and then voted on the bill again.
On the final night of the session, the Speaker of the House of Delegates held a bill for five and a half hours, essentially robbing it of any chance for an up-or-down vote. We as legislators should have the opportunity to debate and vote on legislation as it is reported from one chamber to the other. There are one hundred thirty four legislators elected, one person should not dictate what bills are, or are not acted on.
As always, feel free to contact me with any issues or concerns at 304 593-5010, or by email at email@example.com. I appreciate your trust and support.
Delegate Scott Brewer (D-New Haven), represents the 13th District in the West Virginia House of Delegates.